Hoops star Lebron James is being drawn in a lawsuit over the rights to ‘Black Ice’ – a film about a separate hockey league for black players in Canada, according to court documents.
Billy Hunter – former head of the NBA Players Association and ex-attorney – filed a $10 million lawsuit in September against Los Angeles Lakers greats, rappers Drake and Future and others over the documentary, claiming that he owns the exclusive rights to any Color Hockey League film.
But on Thursday, Hunter dropped his claims against four-time NBA champion and MVP and James’ business partner Maverick Carter.
The lawsuit will continue against Drake, Future and the other defendants – and Hunter may sue James and Carter in the future if necessary, Hunter’s attorney Larry Hutcher said.
“At this stage of the litigation prior to any discovery, we have agreed to voluntarily dismiss these parties without prejudice,” Hutcher said in a statement. “If the discovery we are conducting shows that they were involved, we will reinstate our claims.”
Hutcher said claims against James and his business partner were dropped, as both said they had no involvement in the “negotiation or sale of the property”.
“We elected to let them out at this time with the understanding that if the discovery shows they were involved, we would bring them back into the pursuit,” Hutcher said. “We have no desire to sue people who have not acted in violation of our customers’ rights.”
In his lawsuit, Hunter alleged that the high profile defendants went behind his back to cut a deal with the authors of the critically acclaimed book on which the documentary is based – “Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, 1895 to 1925.
Hunter claims he paid book authors George and Darril Fosty $265,000 for the film rights.
He claims the option agreement was signed on March 25, 2019, and he paid $10,000 at the time, until he later paid $250,000 in February 2022 to hold the ” exclusive worldwide rights” to any “audiovisual” adaptation of the story.
Then in October 2020, Hunter was called by George Fosty, who told him he had been approached by other producers working with James to make the documentary.
Hunter said at the time that he refused to sell the rights to his passion project. And through his lawyer, Hunter sent a breach of contract letter to the defendants on November 1, 2021, after discovering the film in the Canadian press.
The Lebron camp then offered to pay the Fostys $100,000 and 3% of the film’s budget “to induce the writers to break their agreement with” Hunter, according to his lawsuit.
Hunter also sued the Fostys and their publishing company.
“Black Ice” was directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Hubert Davis and premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.
Attorneys for James and Carter did not immediately return a request for comment.